In the Czech Republic’s last general election, it elected a record number of women to parliament, 44. To celebrate that fact, a new-ish party, the Public Affairs Party, created a calendar featuring pictures of their winning candidates in sexual poses.
That’s right: to celebrate the gains women are making in Czech politics, the Public Affairs Party decided to promote sexual objectification of their candidates. Some “gain”.
“Women’s political influence is growing. Why not show we are women who aren’t afraid of being sexy?” said Marketa Reedova, Public Affair’s 42-year-old candidate for the Prague mayor’s office.
Indeed. I too was having trouble accepting these women’s elections because I assumed they were afraid of being sexy, so I can see where Ms. Reedova is coming from. So let us now address the obvious question: are male Czech MPs afraid of being sexy? If not, why is there no calendar of male MPs in sexual poses and revealing clothing?
I like how the Telegraph, where I discovered this article, uses the word “glamour” as a euphemism for sexual objectification. To wit:
Public Affairs has previously used glamour to highlight its strong female presence. During the election campaign four of the women who appear in the calendar posed for a billboard poster wearing black swim suits.
Here’s another nice euphemistic tidbit from the Telegraph:
As further evidence that few in the Czech Republic have qualms over spicing the world of politics with touch of glamour and sex appeal, in the days after the election the glossy women’s magazine “Ona” (She in English) encouraged readers to vote for “Miss Parliament”, asking them to choose their favourite female MP.
“Spice”, “touch of glamour”, “sex appeal”. By what miscarriage of thought power have the Czechs been convinced that conceptions of powerful women must be gift-wrapped in male-gaze-oriented sexuality?
My point with this critique is not that these female Czech MPs are “too sexy”. It is this seemingly reflexive need to package female politicians as sexually-desirable for men, with no commensurate impulse to similarly sexualize male politicians.
Now, why would this difference exist? Oh right—sexism. And to make it okay, the Telegraph couches it as something these women want to do. Raunch-feminist empowerment! Yet they fail to make mention of the different standards to which male politicians are held, which seems to be the bigger picture issue here. Basically, the Telegraph is using Czech sexual double standards as a vehicle to sexually titillate its readers under the cover of a political news story. Again, it is not the existence of sexuality which I am critiquing, but the starkly different treatment male and female politicans’ sexuality receives.
The reflexive need by patriarchal societies to sexualize any and all women who enter the public sphere is an old and well-discussed issue. But thanks to the Czechs, we have to have all the same conversations about it over again.
Boring, but necessary.